Rus­sian-Amer­i­can lob­by­ist joined meet­ing

The for­mer Soviet mil­i­tary of­fi­cer con­firmed his in­volve­ment

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Des­mond But­ler and Chad Day

WASHINGTON» A prom­i­nent Rus­sianAmer­i­can lob­by­ist and for­mer Soviet mil­i­tary of­fi­cer at­tended a meet­ing with Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s son, son-in-law and cam­paign chair­man last year, the lob­by­ist said Fri­day, adding a new wrin­kle to the Trump team’s evolv­ing ex­pla­na­tions about the June 2016 ses­sion.

Ri­nat Akhmetshin con­firmed his in­volve­ment to The As­so­ci­ated Press. He had not been pre­vi­ously iden­ti­fied as a par­tic­i­pant in the meet­ing at Trump Tower in New York.

The meet­ing has height­ened ques­tions about whether Trump’s as­so­ciates co­or­di­nated with Rus­sia to med­dle in the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion — to help him and thwart Hil­lary Clin­ton — and whether they’ve been forth­com­ing about their for­eign con­tacts. Fed­eral and con­gres­sional in­ves­ti­ga­tors are prob­ing pos­si­ble con­nec­tions be­tween the cam­paign and Moscow.

Akhmetshin has been re­ported to have ties to Rus­sian in­tel­li­gence agen­cies, a char­ac­ter­i­za­tion he dis­misses as a “smear cam­paign.” He’s a well-known Washington pres­ence, lob­by­ing for Rus­sian in­ter­ests try­ing to un­der­mine the al­le­ga­tions of a lawyer who died in a Rus­sian pri­son and is the name­sake of a U.S. sanc­tions law.

Akhmetshin said he served in the Soviet mil­i­tary in a unit that was part of coun­ter­in­tel­li­gence but he was never trained as a spy.

In emails posted by Don­ald Trump Jr. ear­lier this week, a mu­sic pub­li­cist said he ar­ranged the meet­ing be­cause a Rus­sian lawyer wanted to pass on neg­a­tive in­for­ma­tion about Clin­ton. The go-be­tween stated that the dis­cus­sion was part of a Rus­sian gov­ern­ment ef­fort to help Trump.

While Trump Jr. has con­firmed that Rus­sian at­tor­ney Natalia Ve­sel­nit­skaya was in the meet­ing, he has not dis­closed Akhmetshin’s pres­ence. The pres­i­dent’s son has dis­counted the meet­ing, say­ing he did not re­ceive the in­for­ma­tion he was promised.

Akhmetshin said he ac­com­pa­nied Ve­sel­nit­skaya to Trump Tower. She brought a plas­tic folder with printed-out doc­u­ments that de­tailed what she be­lieved was the flow of il­licit funds to the Democrats, Akhmetshin said. Ve­sel­nit­skaya pre­sented the con­tents of the doc­u­ments to the Trump as­so­ciates and sug­gested that mak­ing the in­for­ma­tion pub­lic could help the cam­paign, he said.

Trump Jr. asked the at­tor­ney if she had ev­i­dence to sup­port her claims, in­clud­ing whether she could demon­strate the flow of the money. But Ve­sel­nit­skaya said the cam­paign would need to re­search the is­sue more. Af­ter that, Trump Jr. lost in­ter­est, Akhmetshin said. He does not know if Ve­sel­nit­skaya’s doc­u­ments were pro­vided by the Rus­sian gov­ern­ment. He thinks she left the ma­te­rial, but was un­sure if she handed the doc­u­ments to any­one or left them be­hind.

Jared Kush­ner, Trump’s son-in-law and cur­rent White House se­nior ad­viser, and then-cam­paign chair­man Paul Manafort also at­tended the meet­ing.

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